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Exclusive: Strava co-founders return to company as CEO and executive chairman

Ethan Wolff-Mann
Senior Writer
Strava is one of the most popular niche social media apps, providing free and premium services for fitness tracking, analysis, and sharing. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)


Strava’s co-founders Michael Horvath and Mark Gainey have returned to run the company they started.

On Monday, Horvath replaced James Quarles as CEO, after Quarles spent two-and-a-half years at the helm of the social fitness network app of 47 million members. Gainey is elevated to executive chairman.

Horvath, who has also been the CFO of a biotech company and an economics professor at Stanford and the Tuck School at Dartmouth, had previously served as CEO from 2010 to 2013. Both he and Gainey have remained close to the company, partnering closely with Quarles.

"James led Strava through an incredible and important transition and raised the profile of our brand on to the level of some of the biggest names in sports and technology,” said Gainey, in a statement to Yahoo Finance. “The entire team and board are thankful to him for his dedication to Strava."

Horvath and Gainey’s return to the San Francisco, Denver, and Hanover, N.H.-based company they founded in 2009 has precedent with other tech companies’ founders returning after time away. In 2015 Twitter (TWTR) co-founder Jack Dorsey returned to the company after a seven-year absence, and Steve Jobs spent 11 years before returning to Apple (AAPL), which he co-founded in his garage.

The executive shakeup at the popular fitness tracking and training app comes at a time where Strava is putting its chips fully behind its subscription business, and the company is aligning its resources behind its “Summit” premium offering, according to sources at the company. The aligning includes a “handful” of layoffs at the company.

The Summit premium service offers an à la carte array of three bundles of features that can be purchased for $2 per month each or $5 per month for 12 months.

"Strava is streamlining its team to focus on its core capabilities,” said Strava’s communications director, Andrew Vontz. “We’re committed to building a self-sustaining, efficient company that continues to innovate on behalf of our global community of athletes. We remain dedicated to connecting athletes to what motivates them and helping them find their personal best.”

Strava, which is private and does not release financial information, says it adds about one million users per month and has raised $70 million in its 10 years. In July, Quarles told Yahoo Finance the company was on a path to profitability, but was not looking to squander growth for the short term.

The fitness company has told Yahoo Finance that its goal is not to trap people in its interface but rather keep interactions focused on quality and its users on fitness rather than their phones. The niche nature of the social network gives it a different set of priorities compared to Facebook or Instagram, for instance, and has allowed it to steer clear of much of the controversy that has plagued other platforms.

Strava says the company is focused on expansion in 2020 now that it has shored up its C-suite. Before Horvath and Gainey came back, the company went on a hiring spree, added a new CTO, Yandong Liu, and a new CFO, Christine Park, as well as Chief Product Officer Nathan Stoll and General Counsel Annie Frye.

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Ethan Wolff-Mann is a writer at Yahoo Finance focusing on consumer issues, personal finance, retail, airlines, and more. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.

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